When looking at colleges, it’s a good idea to ask about the school’s job placement rates. But because of how colleges calculate or report their placement rates, the numbers can be misleading or confusing. To help you compare colleges’ job placement stats, we’ve decoded a few key terms colleges use to describe job placement numbers so you can know what they really mean.
Placed vs. employed. “Placed” often means that a student either has gotten a job or been accepted to graduate school. Basically, it means students have achieved their post-bachelor’s degree goal of either working or starting an advanced degree program. “Employed” is more specific and includes only students who have gotten a job, not students who are in graduate school.
Employed vs. employed in field of study. If a job placement rate at one school states “90 percent of graduates are employed within six months of graduation” and another says “84 percent of graduates are employed in their field of study within six months of graduation,” which is better? In this case, the 84 percent is better, because students “employed in their field of study” are employed in the career field they went to school for.
If a statistic says just “employed,” it means the students have jobs, but the jobs may not necessarily be related to the students’ field of study. For example, “employed” could mean a music education major has a job as a cashier at a local department store, while “employed in their field of study” means the music education major has a job teaching music.
Time period of the statistic. Some schools report job placement rates of students upon graduation (which means students have jobs before they graduate), within six months of graduation or within one year of graduation. If the school’s job placement rate doesn’t have a time frame, ask an admission officer about the time frame the statistic covers.
Number of graduates represented in stats. As you look for and compare job placement rates, keep in mind that colleges don’t always collect job placement information in the same ways. Some only obtain stats at graduation, while others send surveys to new alumni.
Response rates for the job surveys can be low, so be sure to ask how many graduates the survey or job placement stats represent. For example, at a small college perhaps only 10 students graduate in a certain major each year, and only four might respond to the survey. Job placement stats could show that 100 percent of graduates obtained jobs if all four were employed, but the other six may or may not be employed.
Before choosing a college, ask about what the career services office does to help students get jobs and internships. And as with any statistics about a college, it’s important to find these numbers, but your ultimate college decision should be based on more than numbers alone.
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